Tulsa to See RiverWalk Development

Financing to help created second phase of 164,000-s.f. of retail at RiverWalk Crossing

Crowds flock there every night. The stores are thriving, as are the restaurants -- Los Cabos is reportedly one of the top moneymaking eateries in Oklahoma.

So what's taken Jerry Gordon so long to expand RiverWalk Crossing?

The outspoken developer said he has wanted to break ground on new buildings at his shopping center the instant the old ones were finished in 2005, but he claims he never got the support he wanted. Local banks passed on financing the second phase, and his conflicts with Jenks officials lead to his public appeal to be annexed by the city of Tulsa.

Now, Gordon said, the uncertainty and conflicts are over. He's officially landed financing for $24 million to build 164,000 additional square feet at RiverWalk Crossing -- at least.

The new buildings, which are set to open by the end of the year, will feature a large upstairs restaurant, a focus on retail stores and 22 upstairs, upscale apartments overlooking the Arkansas River.

"There's a lot of interest in residential development along the river," Gordon said. "I've already pre-leased some units even before I finished the designs. I'm guessing they'll fill up quickly."

American National Bank of Texas will provide financing for RiverWalk Crossing's second phase, as well as assume Gordon's current mortgage from Stillwater National Bank.

SNB financed the $25 million, 110,000-square-foot first phase. Gordon said Stillwater chose not to give him additional financing because his loan administrator, Merle Budd, retired. Budd, however, said in November that policies did not change at SNB after he retired.

Current tenants of RiverWalk Crossing, such as Judy Eddington, co-owner of JooJooBee's Club & Deli, said they're glad that the long-promised second phase is finally making progress. They hope the increase in foot traffic will give their establishments a leg up.

"We're excited," Eddington said. "We need more retail down here."

Plans for the second phase have changed somewhat since Gordon's initial announcement that the area would be anchored by a "big box" bookstore.

Now, the northern end's restaurant, whose square footage and final design will be dictated by its eventual tenant, will act as a focal point, much as the center's amphitheater acts now at the south end.

"We're designing the center around the upstairs restaurant to make it a huge draw," Gordon said. "Its outdoor balconies will all overlook the river."

Stairs to the balcony will flank a 25-foot tall, 50-foot diameter rock sculpture with a waterfall.

Gordon said he's negotiating with three potential tenants, two of whom represent national chains and one local person wanting to start a new concept.

"For the amount of attention we're paying to this, the restaurant has to have the right menu mix," he said.

Though restaurants make up a large portion of RiverWalk's current tenants, Gordon said the second phase will only sport two new eateries at the most, including the centerpiece restaurant.

Instead, the downstairs portion will feature more retail, with an emphasis on apparel. He said the second phase needs to complement the large number of entertainment venues already in place.

"We want to go more to the clothing places, since we're hoping to get foot traffic to increase," he said.

And Gordon could still cater to bibliophiles.

"Personally, I'd love to still see a bookstore there," he said. "We'll just see how things fall."

Lone Star Steakhouse, originally planned as an outparcel building, is no longer in the cards, Gordon said. The expanding plans for the second phase, as well as the need for parking, has consumed the space originally planned for Lone Star.

Hampton Inn Garden Suites still plans to open a hotel on the remaining outparcel segment, Gordon said.

He said leasing for the second phase has already begun. Though he wants to attract smaller retail outlets, he's also negotiating with three big box retail stores, including a sporting goods store and a home furnishings store.

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